THE STRONG housing market in the South-East helped Countryside Properties, the Essex-based house builder, to a threefold increase in pre-tax profits to £9.3 million (1996: £3.1 million) in the year to September.
Turnover jumped by 22 per cent to £195.7 million as the firm boosted its private unit sales to 843 homes from 625 last time.
Chairman Alan Cherry said the firm's underlying operating margins were improving irrespective of house price inflation as it was offering more value-added products. Margins on its private housing side rose to to 9.4 per cent from 6.8 per cent and were on target to reach 15 per cent.
Recent interest rates rises had taken some of the heat out of the South- East housing market and Mr Cherry said the firm was only buying land based on current selling prices. The firm's current land bank stands at 4,800 plots with planning permission so Countryside could avoid having to buy land at inflated prices.
The firm has completed 775 new homes for housing associations and others under design and build contracts.